Vision in Silver Page 90

Jackson and Grace. But as she thought of them, she didn’t see Grace. She saw Jackson and . . .

Taking a clean sheet of paper, the girl began to draw.

*   *   *

Jackson walked into the scarred girl’s room with a plate of food for the midday meal.

She sat at the head of the bed, her arms wrapped around tucked-up legs, her chin resting on her knees.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, only realizing how sharp he sounded when she winced. He set the plate on the desk and approached the bed, sniffing lightly so that she wouldn’t know he was trying to catch the scent of blood.

No blood, but something was wrong.

“I wanted to draw a picture for you and Grace, but I drew that.” She pointed to the paper at the end of the bed.

Holding it carefully by one corner, he turned it around. Then he sucked in a breath.

“Have you ever seen these places? Seen . . . images?” he asked.

She shook her head.

She’d never seen him in Wolf form, but she’d drawn his head, muzzle raised to the sky, the Rocky Mountains in the background. That filled the top left section of the paper. The bottom-right section was filled with the head of another howling Wolf. Filling the center of the paper was a human dwelling like nothing he would find around his home territory, an Eagle’s view of an island, and the thundering water known as Talulah Falls.

“That other Wolf isn’t Grace,” she said, sounding worried.

“No, it’s my friend Simon. He lives in Lakeside, a place on the eastern shore of Lake Etu.” He studied the girl. Her shaggy hair was a golden brown, and her eyes were green with flecks of gold. If she were a shifter, he’d think she belonged to the Panthergard with her coloring. “You drew this for me?”

She nodded. “It means something.” She looked at the desk, at the drawer where she kept the razor. Then she looked away.

“It means something,” he agreed. “A strong friendship always has meaning.”

She looked surprised, then relieved.

No, Jackson thought. I won’t ask you to use the razor.

He picked up the drawing, careful not to smudge it. “Thank you.” Then he saw the drawing under it.

“It confused me, so I didn’t finish the picture.” She hesitated, then added softly, “I used up a lot of my blue pencils.”

“I’ll go down to the Intuit village later today and see if they have more.”

There was power in the drawing she’d made of him and Simon, but this other one disturbed him. A wheat field. He knew it was wheat because she had drawn stalks with ripe grain in the foreground. But it was underwater. Sharks swam above the wheat field, and in the background, at the edge of the paper, was something that looked like a sunken ship.

He took that drawing too.

“Eat your food,” he said.

“Wheat doesn’t grow underwater. I remember that from the training images.” A glance at the drawer that held the razor.

“You don’t have to cut. You’ve given us answers. It’s up to us to figure out the questions.”

Jackson left the room and closed the door. Then he listened.

Soft footsteps crossing to the desk. A drawer opening.

He counted to ten before the drawer closed again and the chair scraped over the floor. When he was sure she was eating instead of using the razor, he silently stepped away.

Only one telephone in the terra indigene settlement. There wasn’t any need for more. The phone, along with the computer, was in the cabin at the edge of the settlement, next to the road that led to the Intuit village. Mail and packages were delivered there as well because there were too few who lived in the settlement who could pass for human.

He looked at the drawing of two Wolves who lived in different parts of Thaisia but were connected by more than friendship.

He would show the drawings to the elders, then leave them with Grace for safekeeping while he walked to the cabin with the phone and placed a call to Simon.


Firesday, Maius 18

Simon reviewed the lists in his hands, then looked at the books on the shelves. Early in Maius, he’d asked the gaggle of girls and the police who had become part of the Courtyard—including Lieutenant Montgomery—what kinds of books they read and what authors they liked. They’d given him lists, and based on those lists, it was time to cull the stock.

Setting a cart within easy reach, he began pulling books off the shelves.

“Is this something I should know about?” Vlad asked, leaning against the shelves.

“We’ve closed the store to humans who aren’t part of the Courtyard’s pack, so it’s time to remove books that aren’t of interest to them or the terra indigene.”

Vlad pulled a book off the shelf. The cover showed a muscular male who was partially clothed, looked menacing, and was meant to be some kind of terra indigene. At the male’s feet was a partially clothed female, probably human, who, despite cowering, had her chin lifted in a defiant attitude and had her back arched in a way that displayed an impressive pair of breasts.

“Do you think humans will ever realize breasts have no attraction for us once we’re weaned?” Vlad asked, opening the book to a random page.

“Why should they?” Simon tipped his head toward the book. “None of us would be interested in that story, so none of us would think to mention it, and terra indigene publishers already know that cover wouldn’t attract us.” The better question, as far as he was concerned, was how had that book gotten on the shelves in the first place?

Vlad read a couple of pages, then put the book on the cart. “Some of us might read it if you shelved it as a comedy.”

Simon eyed him, then looked at the book. “Or put it in with the cookbooks?”

“Too obvious what our interest in the breasts would be.”

Laughing, he handed half the lists to Vlad. “These are books our humans enjoy reading. I want to keep those authors in stock, as well as similar books. It seems Heather was the only one who was interested in straightforward kissy books, but the gaggle likes romance thrillers or adventures. For now, I’m keeping one of whatever we have in stock, kissy books and all, and removing the extra copies. Henry can take his pick for our library, and we’ll pass along the rest.”

“What are we going to do with the shelf space?”

“Add books written by terra indigene. Instead of a shelf tucked way in the back or an occasional display in the front of the store, we’ll sell the books next to their human counterparts.”

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